Why go in 2013? A world of wild wonders
After years of political instability, Madagascar is on the verge of recovery with a move towards greater democracy following presidential elections. For visitors, the time to go is now. Prepare to be overwhelmed by the fauna and landscapes of the world's fourth-biggest island. For many, this Noah's Ark in the Indian Ocean is synonymous with wildlife-watching and ecotourism. More than 80 per cent of the creatures inhabiting the 1,600km-long territory are unique to Madagascar. The island is home to an array of quirky creatures found nowhere else on earth: tenrecs, fossas and more than 50 species of lemur. Most can be approached with relative ease and a lot of national parks and reserves ensure that they're protected. The scenery is equally surreal and stimulating: high plateaus that plunge into semitropical rainforest, mangrove swamps, volcanic craters, uninhabited offshore islands, pristine coral reefs and grandiose mountain ranges. The whole country is pockmarked with trippy natural attractions, such as the Avenue du Baobab, which features a line of giant trees more than 1,000 years old. To those seeking paradise lost and a place out of the ordinary, Madagascar cannot fail to delight. Just don't forget your adventurer's hat!
Plan several days of hiking in the vast Parc National de l'Isalo. The geography is mind blowing, with a mix of canyons, cliffs, waterfalls and colourful mountain ranges made of eroded Jurassic sandstone. It also offers superb wildlife-viewing opportunities.